How to research your competitors

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How to research your competitors

YOU have got a niche product. You have cornered the market. You are on top of the world. Or so you thought.

There is always competition around the traps. Someone else out there who has a product similar to yours, or perhaps a product that goes one step ahead of yours.

Now you want to know what they are all about. What makes them tick? And are they in a position to sway some of your customers their way?

It is tough enough to keep on top of suppliers, new laws, technology advances, staff movements. Keeping ahead of the competition is just one more brick you need in your wall.

Let us look at these strategic factors in more detail.

Know who your competitors are

First of all, you should know who it is that will be sharing or even moving into your business space. Knowing who your competitors are goes beyond just their brand name, product, etc.

Know who they are in terms of history of the company. How long they have been around? What is their best-selling point? Are their customers loyal or do they keep changing?

Are they active in the digital space, or prefer to keep a low online presence?

Knowledge is essential to any business, and knowledge of your competitor could mean the difference in getting that hard-earned dollar from a potential customer.

Learn what they are all about

Your knowledge of your competitor should go beyond whether they are they have an online presence or not. It should go beyond their products to how much they charge and what tactics they employ to market their enterprise.

Do they have sales often? Or customer surveys? Do they keep their clients involved as a community?

What is their principal marketing strategy, and how does it compare to yours?

Analyse their media profile

Not all enterprises like to shout out from the rooftops about who they are. Some prefer to fly under the radar.

Then there are others that are constantly given air time in the media. The opinion of someone within the organisation is tapped every now and then. They are not camera shy. Their boss or senior staff appear on camera to talk about trends in their industry and so on.

If you know your competitors are not media-shy, you can get more insights into such organisations by reading what they have to say, and watching when they appear on television.

You can also keep an eye out for their ads on television or in the printed media, trade press or online.

Online shop window

An enterprise’s website gives you a taste of who they are and what products they have on offer.

You can see from their website whether they are with it in the digital age or have a rudimentary online shopfront.

Some organisations love to say where the boss will be this weekend, where he or she was last week, etc. They put up vLogs and blogs. Do these videos and blogs give you more information than a Google search?

Now if you are an online-only store and your competitor too is web based, perhaps you could pick up a trick or two by trawling through their site, their store, paying process, etc.

Social media presence

Social media is all the rage these days. But it is not just a fanciful thing to do in our free time anymore.

In this day, social networks have been harnessed to showcase products, services and businesses.

From visiting a competitor’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn page, you could learn a lot more about the company. This is where a customer will talk about their product or service, be it complimenting them or airing grievances.

Reading what their clients have to say on social media as well as what your competition says in reply could provide further insights.

Big data

Big data is a boon to big business. But if used correctly, it can be beneficial to small and medium-sized businesses as well.

For instance, collect the customer and sales data that is useful to your SME. What is the value of a huge collection of data if it is of no practical use?

It is valuable to use an external data/analytics consultancy to get the initial set-up if the right expertise is not available within your in-house IT talent.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a free service from the search engine giant. When you set up an alert, you can get email updates according to your query.

Your search query could be the name of your business, right? The query could include industry terms as well. So all new developments and movements in the market could be trackable.

Why not have a query with the names of your competitors? With the alerts popping into your inbox regularly, you could know what is going on with your competition.

Trade shows

Businesses love to put on a show at trade fairs. This could work to your advantage because you could watch your competition in action with potential clients.

You could even pick up literature on their products and services from the booths.

At exhibitions, you can watch who visits their stalls and how they interact with the potential clients: Do the visitors ask a lot of questions? Which literature are they most interested in? Do they spend a lot of time in the booth?

Your customer is key

The customer is king and the one you want. When you get a new customer, perhaps you could ask why they have made the switch.

This could be useful information about your strategy and would stop you from making the mistake your competitor has made. Besides, if you get a chatty enough customer, you could get more information about your competition than you bargained for.

Direct contact

Speaking to your competitors is an old school tactic – a phone call to them to ask about a product or to obtain a copy of their literature.

A chat could give you some insight. You can get a feel of how they interact with customers, how much information they are willing to give over the phone, and so on.